Intrepid Explorer Nov. 2, 2023

By Dan Abernathy
Posted 11/1/23

Despite the fact that free speech is a critical part of the First Amendment and considered the backbone of freedom, book banning has returned as a politicized and discriminating issue.

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Intrepid Explorer Nov. 2, 2023


Years ago, I was traveling the world with a Nikon camera chasing stories. During one and the same year, 1992, Madonna’s book, Sex, was released as a visual companion to her album Erotica. This was one of the most iconic and resounding art projects conceived by the pop star. Sex featured the erotic imagery by photographer Steven Meisel.

This controversial book sold out almost instantly. After hearing about her book, I of course wanted to see a copy. Returning to Pinedale, I went to the Sublette County Library and asked the library director at that time, Daphne Platts, if they had a copy. Of course they did, as the Sublette County Library is not part of the prevention of freedom of speech.

Despite the fact that free speech is a critical part of the First Amendment and considered the backbone of freedom, book banning has returned as a politicized and discriminating issue.

According to research by the American Library Association, over 1,900 library book titles have been targeted for censorship in 2023. The majority of these scrutinized books were authored by or contained subject matter about people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Advocates for banning books are using the humanitarian cry of, Save the children,” fearing that children will be swayed by its contents. They regard this context as potentially dangerous. Being influenced by reading books is what has, in fact, influenced their own characters, or perhaps lack of.

This is yet another attack on our freedom. Any person who not only sees the importance of libraries and values our constitutional rights should have trouble with this. Its ludicrous to allow a group of people or any individual, no matter how loud they bellow, to become the decision-maker about what books we can or cannot read.

Banned books in western culture can be traced back to the earliest years of the Christian church. Books were burnt as superstitious, following the Council of Ephesus in the second century. Competing views were regarded as lacking moral principles and the church tried to suppress them.

In the early Christian church, book banning became infectious as church leaders sought to consolidate their power and control the information available to their followers. Religious authorities deemed certain books as heretical or blasphemous and would ban them to control the spread of ideas.

In 1933, students in 34 university towns across Germany burned over 25,000 books. The writing of Jewish authors Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud went up in flames, while brainwashed students stood in the smoke of scorching pages and gave the Nazi salute. Also included in the flames were the words of American authors, Ernest Hemingway and Helen Keller.

German Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels gave a speech in Berlin’s Opera Square. The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character. We will educate you; thus we do in this midnight hour to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past.”

The book burnings stood as a powerful symbol of Nazi intolerance and censorship. All the work of prominent Jewish, liberal, leftist writers and books they claimed were un-German, ended up flickering in flame.

Since its publication, Ray Bradburys 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451, has been targeted to be banned, despite the irony in such censorship. Bradbury’s novel was based on political and social fears and how they shaped the people consuming information and media. In the novel, books were banned and actively burned to prohibit people from learning or forming their own thoughts and opinions.

Fahrenheit 451 warns against the dangers of banning books as this practice consequently vetoes ideas and knowledge. It should be an emergency alarm, drawing widespread attention, without confusion of the detriment to society. It conveys a straightforward message: Preserve free speech.

In truth today, despite the entire book-banning controversy, physically pulling a book from a library shelf is only a minor roadblock. The reality is the Internet exists and so does an online copy. If you want a copy of anything, you have access to get it.

What is happening with the attempts to ban books is that it creates the Streisand effect, where the attempt to censor, hide or otherwise draw attention away from something only serves to attract more attention to it.

The most frequently banned book in America is 1984 by George Orwell, published in 1949. It was condemned for its pro-communist and sexually explicit content, alongside his other story, Animal Farm; however, it has since become known as one of the most significant rationalizations for freedom of speech and expression.

The novel opens with the frustration of oppression and rigid control of the party, which prohibits free thought, sex and any expression of individuality. The most genuinely frightening aspect of the novel is the depiction of power as an end in itself to maintain the insignificance of the individual. 

Book banning is a violation of the First Amendment and constitutes censorship and prevention of freedom of speech. This is education suppression. The uneducated become those without knowledge, which offers the grip for control.

To be living in socially accepted compliance where freedom has been forfeited is, in fact, not living at all. Do we want the youth of America to grow up knowing this as normal? We must become so free with thought and being an absolute individual that your personal style and existence, is in fact, an act of organized resistance in defiance to authority and control. - dbA

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